Tondo Boy Proves Pinoy Business Can Stand Firm
By Cai U. Ordinario , Reporter (Manila Times)
HE GREW up in Tondo among people hungry for food and ideas. But this
did not deter Francisco "Jay" Bernardo 3rd from achieving success,
which resulted in his inclusion in the most recent Ten Outstanding
Young Men of the Philippines awards.
"I was hungry then and I saw people that were hungrier [than us] when
I was in Tondo," Bernardo, an Industrial Engineer by profession, told
Business Times. "I knew how it was."
This early exposure to poverty at the heart of Manila's poor community
helped mold Bernardo's entrepreneurial skills. That and having
supportive parents who encouraged him to pursue his business dreams.
"I've always been entrepreneurial since grade school, high school,
college, selling T-shirts, selling this, selling that, thinking of new
ideas, proposing left and right, different ideas," Bernardo said. "My
father told me, 'You're young, go ahead, you have nothing to lose.'"
Indeed, he gained.
With his background tucked behind his ears, Bernardo pioneered a
business that manufactures cotton buds supplied to multinational
company Johnson & Johnson. He also led the establishment of the
seven-company JAD Group of Companies that provides other products and
services to corporate giants Kimberly Clarke, Sarah Lee, and Proctor
Today, he even produces a television show, Entrepinoy, and intends to
make entrepreneurship modules for high school students and grade
"The situation [in the Philippines] is very prime; we will be in
crisis forever, for a long period of time and we are hungry," Bernardo
"We are educated; we just need a priming up. I still believe in the
Filipino. I still believe the country is full of opportunities. That's
why I am still here."
As far back as he could remember, Bernardo has always been inclined to
business. He was in Grade 2 when he started selling sipa (shuttlecock)
to earn extra money for other toys that his meager allowance could not
He said that back then, in order to finance his business, he relied on
strategy and a little help from his mother.
"My mother was the one buying the sipa that I was selling," Bernardo
said. "I had to be good at the sport so I can make all the sipa go to
to the roof and they could buy again from me."
He said he never made the mistake of borrowing money from his father,
who was already teaching him the basics of accounting and business
math—the first business education he received—even when he was only in
"My father, being the academician, was teaching me the discipline.
'OK, so if you borrow P1,000, you have to pay this interest. I'll take
it out of your allowance,'" Bernardo related. "I couldn't understand
him so I never borrowed from him [but] from my mother. That was the
Bernardo believes, however, that his father's attempt to teach him the
basics of math helped since "[my father] was trying to teach me the
value of money."
Being the eldest of three, he was able to attend good schools. His
father, a teacher, was entitled to having his eldest son study for
free in whatever educational institution he worked for.
"I got into better schools because my father, it was his privilege, to
have the first son free in the schools he was teaching in," he said.
"I was lucky, I was blessed."
Bernardo loved studying. He was always in school even after acquiring
an Industrial Engineering degree.
After spending two years in production and two years as an industrial
engineer in Johnson and Johnson (J&J), he went back to study, this
time at the esteemed Asian Institute of Management (AIM).
He said he pursued Industrial Engineering because he wanted to have a
"systematic way of [doing] things." On the other hand, his
entrepreneurial inclination led him to AIM.
"I wanted to learn how to handle people and that's through production,
and then two years [of] how to handle office work. Then after that, I
took my Masters [in Business Administration] at AIM," Bernardo said.
Again he was blessed because his father used to be the dean of AIM.
"That's why I was able to go there," he said.
After AIM, he said he felt he was already where he belongs. So he
returned to J&J not as an employee anymore but with his own company.
"Entrepreneurship is creating something new and through this new
creation of wealth comes new creation of knowledge," Bernardo said.
With that in mind, he went into a business that he is most familiar
with. For Bernardo, that was operating a cotton buds manufacturing
Cotton buds and old equipment
In 1994, right after earning his MBA, Bernardo, along with several
partners, raised P100,000 to P120,000 to put up a business that
initially catered to the cotton buds needs of J&J. At first, they were
only making the cotton bud sticks but soon, they were making the whole
According to Bernardo, for a manufacturing business, that capital was
low. This was because they either purchased old equipment from the
company for a lower price or bought them on a "pay when able" basis.
In addition, the materials, initially, were provided by J&J.
"We're actually looking for win-win scenarios. If I buy a new item, it
will just cost them [a lot]," he explained. "The product will not be
competitive and in the end, they will be losing a lot. If I have a low
cost of start up, then I could give you a product that's low cost."
The company became, in principle, an outsourced manufacturing company
through which Bernardo was able to put up several others for
warehousing, packaging, and distribution. Thus, the JAD Group of
Companies was born.
"What we did was we broke down a whole company," said Bernardo. "All
of the companies are now on their own."
Growing a business not only necessitated good steady production and
sales but also healthy employee relations, something that Bernardo
never forgot. That's why in 2001, JAD was awarded the Employer of the
Year by the Personnel Manager Association of the Philippines, beating
This was all credited to the efforts of JAD management to educate its
employees on how to become entrepreneurs themselves. Bernardo believes
that by doing this, they are not only helping the business grow but
also honing their employees' skills and making them future partners of
Bernardo said human resource people were aghast at how they will do
this, saying they would lose people.
"[But] if they leave, more likely they will do business with us,
right?" he said. "We encourage entrepreneurship because this is what
made us go up in life."
In 2002, Bernardo left JAD and moved on to start three more
outsourcing companies of his own and a foundation that embodies his
views on entrepreneurship advocacy. "I wanted to move on. I wanted to
do something else. I was being called to do something else," he said.
Today, because of his strong views on entrepreneurship, Bernardo is
involved with Let's Go Philippines Foundation, an organization which
seeks to empower the poor into becoming entrepreneurs.
"It's a foundation that's trying to be a catalyst toward pushing
entrepreneurship in our country," he said. "We started off actually
just doing some teaching entrepreneurship within our own company but
later on sabi namin, sayang naman 'yung [we told ourselves, it's a
waste of] effort, so we wanted to bring it out."
Believing that entrepreneurship would be the long-term solution to
unemployment and eventually, to progress, Bernardo held a series of
talks and seminars on entrepreneurship in schools and other
"We had networking activities on different industries, tawag diyan
'Let's Go Eat' para sa food industry, 'Let's Go Surf' para sa IT
industry and all the other industries. We also had 'Let's Go
Provincial' and 'Let's Go Global,' which featured different provinces
and their entrepreneurship activities," related Bernardo.
Bernardo now also teaches an entrepreneurship course at AIM to further
contribute to his vision and advocacy. He has also negotiated with IBC
13 to produce, Entrepinoy, a business show, in the hope of amplifying
their cause to more Filipinos. The show, though faced with a lot of
competition from soap operas, is still on the air.
"Usapang Business already went off the air and other business talk
shows have been going off the air," he said. "Kapag may educational
show ka, walang bumibili d'yan, walang mag-a-advertise d'yan."
To supplement this effort, Bernardo will be working on modules for
high school students and grade school pupils to teach them early on
what entrepreneurship is all about and how they can benefit from it.
"When I was younger, my parents would always say, as most parents
would say, 'o saang multinational ka magtatrabaho?' [which
multinational will you work for?]" Bernado said.
He added that parents are more proud if the multinational is bigger.
"And if you say, you're going to be an entrepreneur, sasabihin 'naku,
kawawa naman 'yung anak ko, walang makuhang trabaho' di ba? [they
would say, 'my son's pitiful because he can't land a job']," Bernardo
It is this kind of mentality that he wants changed.
"Entrepreneurship is being self-reliant, it is something worth
pursuing, [and] it is something where you would really try to see how
good you are," Bernardo said.